Europe’s highest court has limited the reach of the landmark online privacy law known as “right to be forgotten” in a big win for Google. The company and other search engines had been fighting a French effort to force them to take down internet links globally. The court ruled that Europe could not impose the right to be forgotten on countries that did not recognize the law.
The right to be forgotten is a centerpiece of the European Union’s internet privacy laws. Established in 2014, the standard was enacted to get search engines to delete links to webpages that include personal information considered old, no longer relevant or not in the public interest. Supporters say the policy is a much-needed legal tool for people to have personal information removed. Critics say that the rules, widely applied, could lead to broad censorship of the internet.
Google deletes links only within the European Union. According to company figures, Google has received requests to take down more than 3.3 million links and has granted about 45 percent of those requests. In 2015, the top data-protection regulator in France argued that a regional application of the rule was worthless because people could still find the information if they were outside Europe.
Peter Fleischer, Google’s senior privacy counsel, said in a statement, “Since 2014, we’ve worked hard to implement the right to be forgotten in Europe, and to strike a sensible balance between people’s rights of access to information and privacy. It’s good to see that the court agreed with our arguments.” The case cannot be appealed, and national courts across the European Union must abide by the decision.